Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas with Erma - The Christmas Pageant


This excerpt from At Wit's End beautifully captures Erma's innate humor. Enjoy!



The Christmas Pageant

Memo to:Mr. Kravitz, principal
From:Katherine Courageous
Re:Christmas Pageant

The Christmas Pageant will be a little late this year. Possibly January 23 if that date is agreeable with you.

Although an enthusiastic Pageant Committee has been at work since October, we have had some problems. To begin with, there were several on the committee who insisted on making a musical out of the Nativity story. At one point, we had the precision drill team making a "B" for Bethlehem in the background while a trio of baton twirlers marched around the stable. This idea was scratched when someone remembered batons hadn't been invented yet.

Remember how excited we were about the donation of a "live" donkey? Our custodian, Mr. Webber, does not share our excitement. Although his phrasing was a little less delicate, he intimated that if the animal was not "gym-floor trained" by January 23, we could jolly well go back to papier-mâché. He also said (this is quoted out of context) that the smell of the beast wouldn't be out of the auditorium in time for the Lions' annual Chili Supper next May.

We have had a few casting problems to plague us. I had to award the Mary, Mother of Jesus, role to Michael Pushy. (His parents donated the donkey.) Michael refused to wear a wig, which might be a little confusing to the audience, but I'll make a special note on the program. I've had great pressure from Mrs. Reumschusser. It seems her son, Kevin, is a Ted Mack Amateur Hour loser who plays "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" on the spoons. I am using him at intermission.

The costumes didn't arrive until three days ago from the Beelzebub Costume Company of New Jersey. There was obviously an error. Instead of thirty Roman soldier uniforms, there were thirty pink suede bunny leotards with matching ears. It was quite apparent to me that after I had tried a few on our "little people," this was not our order. Miss Heinzie and myself couldn't help but speculate that somewhere there is a tired businessman with a Roman soldier sitting on his lap.

The shop department is not yet finished with the special scaffold for parents wishing to take pictures and record the program. We felt this necessary after Mr. Happenstance's accident last year when he panned in too closely and fell into the manger.

I hate to ask, but could you please do something diplomatic with Mrs. Ringading? She has threatened the refreshments committee with her traditional whiskey balls and rum cookies. You know what a fire hazard they created last year.

In view of the fact that two of our shepherds have diarrhea, we respectfully request the Pageant be postponed until January 23 or after.

- Erma Bombeck, At Wit's End, Nelson Doubleday, Inc., 1965

The Art of Christmas - Lisi Martin


The art of Lisi Martin fascinates me; in fact, if it was possible to melt when looking at these paintings, that would describe me!





Lisi Martin is a Spanish artist and illustrator who is famous for her highly detailed and romanticized pictures of children. At the age of 16, Lisi began formal art studies in Barcelona, although she is quick to point out that the type of illustration for which she is famous is not something that was taught at art schools in the early 1960s. After working for a couple of Spanish companies, Lisi made a breakthrough in her art career when she joined the Swedish greeting card company, Pictura, in 1983.

Enjoy Lisi's art and feel free to leave a comment (click on images to enlarge) . . .


































Monday, December 15, 2014

Author Spotlight + GIVEAWAY: Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, Sarah Sundin


This picture says it all! Three beloved Christian authors of World War II-era fiction have come together to gift their readers with the new Christmas release, Where Treetops Glisten. Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman and Sarah Sundin invite readers to turn back the clock to days gone by as they listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow and get to know the Turner family. Hailing from the heart of America in Lafayette, Indiana, these characters will never be the same as the reality of America’s involvement in World War II hits incredibly close to home.

With its family emphasis, spiritual insights, World War II theme, romance, and the clever use of beloved Christmas carols that debuted during the era, this collection stands out among other Christmas stories. (Please see my review here.) I appreciate Litfuse Publicity sponsoring this giveaway, details of which are at the end of this post, and hope you'll enjoy this interview with Tricia, Cara, and Sarah.



An interview with Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman & Sarah Sundin
Authors of Where Treetops Glisten


Q: How did the three of you decide to collaborate on a collection of novellas together?

Cara: I’d written in a couple of novella collections and loved the collaborative aspects. Writing is often solitary, but when you’re working on a collection with other writers, you have fun opportunities to work together. I asked Sarah and Tricia if they’d like to work together because I love their World War II stories, and I love their hearts. I also thought this was a sneaky way to get to know them better. It’s so fun now to have a book we’ve written together!

Tricia: The coolest thing about Cara approaching me is that I highly respect both Cara and Sarah for their writing abilities and their love of World War II. There aren’t many people I know who enjoy both of these passions, just as I do, and it was easy to say YES!

Sarah: When Cara invited me to participate, I was thrilled. We all liked the idea of using one family’s experience over the course of the war to tie the stories together.



Q: What themes run through each of the stories in Where Treetops Glisten to tie the book together?

Sarah: In all three of the stories, someone is overcoming grief or loss, and someone is dealing with regrets of the past. Strong themes of healing and reconciliation and hope run through each story. Giving is also a crucial element, which is appropriate for Christmas stories!

Tricia: I also love the use of Christmas songs from that era. The title, Where Treetops Glisten, may be very familiar to readers. Also each novella is named after a popular Christmas tune from those years!


Q: Each one of the three siblings in the books has to chart his or her own path. How is the love of their family a support system for them, even as they make their own life decisions?

Sarah: Pete’s always seen himself as the black sheep of the Turner family — but as a much-loved black sheep. His family was there for him during his wild youth, and they’re there for him when he returns from his combat tour drained of hope and joy. They offer wisdom and humor and encouragement.

Cara: Abigail has keenly felt the shortness and unpredictability of life. Because of it, she’s afraid to chase her dreams or really dare to dream. Her family provides the support and stability to try even when life is something she can’t safely manage.

Tricia: Meredith (Merry) is the wanderer. She is the one who moved to Florida to attend nursing school as soon as she graduated from high school. She’s the baby of the family, and she’s always tried to prove herself. Yet as the years go by, and as Merry finds herself serving as a nurse in Netherlands, she realizes the place she wants to be the most is home — back with the family she loves.


Q: The three novellas are all titled after a Christmas song that became popular during World War II. Can you share a little of the history behind the songs and how they became a part of the book?

Sarah: Since so many great Christmas songs debuted during World War II (“White Christmas” in 1942, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in 1943, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in 1944), I’ve often thought those songs would be a fun way to connect a novella collection, so I suggested it to Cara and Tricia, and they liked it too.

Cara: I loved the idea of using the Christmas carols to connect the stories. So many of those songs are a big part of Christmas even today! But we still had to figure out the rest. Christmas carols alone wouldn’t be enough for three stories to come to life. Once we were all on board, we had a conference call to figure out the rest.

Tricia: I used my song title, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” as an inspiration for my character too. I have a friend named Merry who was born on Christmas . . . so I used that for my novella! Meredith is nicknamed Merry, and her name plays into the story; that song makes its way into the novella too!


Q: Each of the characters in this book has to overcome not only personal obstacles, but also cultural conditions he or she has no control over. What lessons can we learn for our own times from their stories?

Tricia: The issue of “cultures” comes up strongly in my novel. Before the war, Meredith had fallen in love with a man from Germany. After Pearl Harbor, he abandoned her and returned to Germany, breaking her heart. Old and new feelings crash within her as their unit prepares to enter Germany. Meredith also cares for German soldiers who are brought into their field unit.

The lessons I hope the reader walks away with is that our nationality is only a part of who we are. Our family situations, and our faith, also make us who we are.


Q: One thread that ties all of the stories together is the siblings’ grandmother. What do they learn from her lessons of wisdom and faith that help develop their own choices?

Cara:  Grandma was such fun to write! She was feisty but with a deep love for her family. She provides the perspective of time and experience to each of the siblings — yet in a different way to reflect their unique journeys.

Tricia: I loved including a “grandma” in the story since my Grandma lives with me. I love the unconditional love and snippets of wisdom that come from the older generation.


Q: What is it about the Christmas season that engenders such a strong feeling of warmth and love?

Cara: There’s a freshness and sense of wonder to Christmas. The idea that God would send His son to earth as a newborn is an incredibly humbling thought. There’s also the cleanness of fresh-fallen snow that always makes me think of what Christ did on Calvary. Combine that with great music, tradition and the love of family, and it becomes a magical time where almost anything seems possible.



Learn more about the authors!

Tricia Goyer - triciagoyer.com, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

Cara Putman - caraputman.com, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

Sarah Sundin - sarahsundin.com, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

____________________

GIVEAWAY

To enter the drawing for Where Treetops Glisten, simply answer the following question:


Since music plays a big part in this book, what is a
Christmas song that you never tire of hearing or that
holds special meaning for you?

E-mail addresses are required for the drawing and be sure to leave them in a safe format - [at] and [dot]. If you're willing, it's also helpful to share about this giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter.

"Likes" on my Facebook page, ThePowerofWordsBookReviews, are greatly appreciated, as are followers on Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, and this blog.

  • E-mail required, one entry per person. Odds of winning are based on number of entries.
  • Contest ends at midnight PST on Friday, December 26.
  • Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail. Respond within 48 hours of notification or another winner will be chosen.
  • Eligibility: US residents, 18 and older

Review: Through the Deep Waters


Through the Deep Waters
By Kim Vogel Sawyer
WaterBrook Press, 2014


Summary

A past filled with shame can be washed away with a love that conquers all...

Born to an unloving prostitute in a popular Chicago brothel, timid seventeen-year-old Dinah Hubley was raised amidst the secrets held in every dark, grimy room of her home. Anxious to escape, Dinah pursues her dream of becoming a Harvey Girl, waiting tables along the railroad in an upscale hotel. But when she finds out she isn’t old enough, her only option is to accept a job as a chambermaid at the Clifton Hotel in Florence, Kansas. Eager to put everything behind her, Dinah feels more worthless than ever, based on a single horrible decision she made to survive.

The Clifton offers a life Dinah has never known, but blinded to the love around her, Dinah remains buried in the shame of her past. When a handsome chicken farmer named Amos Ackerman starts to show interest, Dinah withdraws further, convinced no one could want a sullied woman like her.  Despite his self-consciousness about his handicapped leg and her strange behavior, Amos resolves to show Dinah Christ’s love. But can she ever accept a gift she so desperately needs?


My thoughts

Through the Deep Waters by Kim Vogel Sawyer is a surprisingly different type of read, one that I found very refreshing and fulfilling. The story is touching, romance tender and sweet, characterization rich, and the theme of redemption is strong. As I began reading, I thought this would be a typical historical romance, maybe even a little predictable - but the further I read, the more I discovered there was nothing typical or predictable about this book.

Through the Deep Waters opens in Florence, Kansas, during the year of 1883 and features the Clifton Hotel, the first hotel owned by Fred Harvey, the man credited with bringing culture to the West. The story is told from three points of view - those of Dinah, Amos, and Ruthie, Dinah's roommate - and that technique worked very well for me.

Character depth is one of this story's strong points. When it came to relationships, Dinah "kept her distance, fearful she'd accidentally share the secrets of her past and let everyone know just how different she really was." Amos and Dinah seem a little stilted or awkward at first, but it's easy to understand why as you get to know them. They reflect the brokenness with which many of us cope, some visibly obvious and others deeply buried. Kim deals with serious life issues head on while confronting sin honestly, in a way not often seen in today's Christian fiction, and I deeply appreciated that.

____________________

"God loves bigger and forgives better and gives more
abundantly than any man ever could."
- Ruthie
____________________

One of this story's main strengths is its spiritual overtones, and I think every reader will be touched in some way.  The message of forgiveness is woven throughout every page, and I loved the way Ruthie shared her faith and the resulting scene of redemption. Dinah's character reflects how mistaken self perception can easily blind us to the love around us. And then there's all the wonderful contrasts that Kim beautifully brought out:  that we build barriers around ourselves, but God tears them down . . . we allow guilt and shame to condemn us, while God freely offers forgiveness and unconditional love . . . we focus on building earthly relationships to fulfill our wants, while God wants to show us that He is all we need.

Another strength is this story's conclusion, for Through the Deep Waters has one of the sweetest and most satisfying endings I've ever read. I wish there could be a sequel, for I'd like to see more of Amos and Dinah, as well as the development of some of the secondary characters. Highly recommended. 5 stars based on the way this book made me feel.


Kim Vogel Sawyer

Kim Vogel Sawyer is a best-selling, award-winning author with more than one million copies of her books currently in print. Awards include the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Sawyer lives in central Kansas, where she and her retired military husband, Don, run a bed-and-breakfast inn with the help of their feline companions. She savors time with her daughters and grandchildren.

Through the Deep Waters can be purchased online at CBD, DeeperShopping, B&N, and Amazon.

Connect with Kim online at kimvogelsawyer.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thank you to Blogging for Books and WaterBrook Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fire Up the Romance this Holiday with @RobinLeeHatcher’s “Love Without End” Kindle Fire Giveaway!

Fire up the romance this holiday with Robin Lee Hatcher's latest offering in the King's Meadow Romance series, Love Without EndFor two single parents with bruised hearts, it’ll take more than a little courage to get back on the horse when it comes to love.


Celebrate love rising from the ashes of tragedy with Robin by entering her Kindle Fire giveaway.



lovewithoutend-400


 One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Love Without End and the rest of the King's Meadow Romance series from Robin Lee Hatcher

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 14th. Winner will be announced December 15th on Robin's blog.


lovewithoutend-enterbanner
{NOT ON FACEBOOK? ENTER HERE.}

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas with Erma - The Lost Christmas


An excerpt in a more serious tone from one of Erma's collections, but with a great message for the Christmas season. Erma departs from her trademark humor with these poignant words . . .



The Lost Christmas

There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.

Not to feel the cold on your bare feet as you rush to the Christmas tree in the living room. Not to have your eyes sparkle at the wonderment of discovery. Not to rip the ribbons off the shiny boxes with such abandon.

What happened?

When did the cold, bare feet give way to reason and a pair of sensible bedroom slippers?
When did the sparkle and the wonderment give way to the depression of a long day?
When did a box with a shiny ribbon mean an item on the "charge"?

A child of Christmas doesn't have to be a toddler or a teen. A child of Christmas is anyone who believes that Kings have birthdays.

The Christmases you loved so well are gone. What happened?

Maybe they diminished the year you decided to have your Christmas cards printed to send to 1,500 of your "closest friends and dearest obligations." You got too busy to sign your own name.

Maybe it was the year you discovered the traditional Christmas tree was a fire hazard and the needles had to be vacuumed every three hours and you traded its holiday aroma for a silver one that revolved, changed colors, played "Silent Night" and snowed on itself.

Or the year it got to be too much trouble to sit around the table and put popcorn and cranberries on a string. Possibly you lost your childhood the year you solved your gift problems neatly and coldly with a checkbook.

Think about it. It might have been the year you were too rushed to bake and resorted to slice-and-bake with no nonsense. Who needs a bowl to clean - or lick?

Most likely it was the year you were so efficient in paying back all of your party obligations. A wonderful little caterer did it for you at three dollars per person.

Children of Christmas are givers. That's what the day is for. They give thanks, love, gratitude, joy, and themselves to one another.

It doesn't necessarily mean you have to have children around a tree. It's rather like lighting a candle you've been saving, caroling when your feet are cold, building a fire in a clean grate, grinding tinsel deep into the rug, licking frosting off a beater, giving something you made yourself.

It's laughter, being with people you like, and at some time, falling to your knees and saying, "Thank you for coming to my birthday party."

How sad indeed to awake on Christmas and not be a child.

Time, self-pity, apathy, bitterness, and exhaustion can take the Christmas out of the child, but you cannot take the child out of Christmas.

- Erma Bombeck, I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal
DepressionNelson Doubleday, Inc., 1965